‘India has second most number of individuals suffering from dementia’ - Hindustan Times
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‘India has second most number of individuals suffering from dementia’

Hindustan Times, Pune | ByJui Dharwadkar
Sep 20, 2017 11:56 PM IST

Dementia is a category of brain disease which can cause long-term memory loss and even gradual decrease in the ability to think. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Even though this is a commonly seen disease mainly in elderly people, the awareness about Alzheimer’s disease is not much. This affects its early detection. To create awareness about this disease, September is declared as Alzheimer’s month and September 21 marks the World Alzheimer's Day. The theme, this year, is 'Remember me' to highlight the importance of early detection and its treatment. On the occasion of World Alzheimer’s Day, Jui Dharwadkar spoke to Dr Ninad Baste, president of the Indian Psychiatric Society, Pune Chapter and psychiatrist at the Tapas Elder Care Centre, to understand more about the Alzheimer's disease.

What is Alzheimer’s disease and what are its symptoms? 

Dr Ninad Baste, president of the Indian Psychiatric Society, Pune Chapter and psychiatrist at the Tapas Elder Care Centre(HT PHOTO)
Dr Ninad Baste, president of the Indian Psychiatric Society, Pune Chapter and psychiatrist at the Tapas Elder Care Centre(HT PHOTO)

Dementia is equated with memory loss and Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. It is a disorder that impairs the mental functioning. Commonly, people associate memory loss or dementia to Alzheimer’s disease but dementia has multiple subtypes. At times, it first presents behavioural problems like irritability, confused behaviour, problems with visual perceptions and difficulty in daily activities. Memory disturbances may appear last. To overcome this hurdle, a term has been coined called ‘Neuro-Cognitive Disorders for Dementia’. 

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Why do you think the diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease gets delayed in most cases? 

The tendency to normalise the memory disturbances by the patient and family members and also lack of awareness of the other symptoms of dementia, leads to a delay in diagnosis of dementia. According to me, more than 25 per cent cases remain undiagnosed. 

Is the number of people suffering from dementia rising in India? 

Globally, there is rise in the population of the elderly people with the generation of baby boomers having entered the age of 60 years. Old age is commonly associated with disorders such as high blood pressure and heart diseases. Along with this problem, it also leads to slowing of the brain functions. Memory lapse is the most common brain dysfunction that people notice and are aware of. However, the attribution of memory lapse to old age commonly masks the onset of a disease called dementia. Globally, India houses the second most number of individuals suffering from dementia with an estimated 4.1 million people suffering from it as per the ‘Dementia India’ report published by the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India. This is expected to double by 2035. Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh alone are expected to house more than 5,00,000 patients by 2026. 

 If people are suffering from memory difficulties, what should be done? 

If any family member experiences memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, consulting a psychiatrist is important, to soon determine the cause. Professional evaluation may detect a treatable condition. Early detection and diagnostics will be helpful to control dementia.

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